Touch Research Institute

Does Massage Lower Stress Hormones? (For Therapists)

[A simpler article, written for clients, can be found here.]

For a number of years I've followed the research of Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. They've been doing research on touch therapy since 1992 and have been pioneers in the field of massage therapy research in the United States. One of the markers they use in their studies is cortisol, a stress hormone that can be measured in blood, saliva, and urine.

Resources for Science-Based Massage Therapists

Recently, I wrote about the emergence of what has come to be called science based or evidence based massage therapy. At the end of the article, I listed a few online resources for massage therapists interested in keeping up with relevant research. However, there are many, many more resources available. Some are directly devoted to massage therapy. Some are related to massage therapy and other manual therapies. Still others are devoted to pain research, brain research, science, or medicine and may be of interest to massage therapists. In this article, I would like to start a list of what I think are good resources for massage therapists. This list is far from complete and will be updated periodically as I learn of other resources. Please feel free to submit your own favorite internet resources.

What Is Evidence Based Massage Therapy?

If you keep up with the world of therapeutic massage, you will eventually notice that there are some new ideas and terms going around. Evidence based massage. Evidence based practice. Evidence informed practice. Science based medicine. What does it all mean?

True to my commitment to being evidence-based, my thinking about trigger points has changed a bit since I first wrote this article. For now, I'll leave it as it was first written, but some time in the future I'll write about some new information about trigger points that challenges the ideas of Travell and Simons. As a result, my approach has altered a bit and has allowed me to work even more successfully with clients without making them sore like I did in the past! After 22 years in practice, I'm still learning and evolving. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Benefits of Massage Therapy

If you've ever had a massage, you know that you can start to feel better within minutes. We are biologically wired to respond to welcome human touch. The massage therapist begins to spread oil over your back. Skilled hands begin to massage tight muscles. Right away, you feel better and begin to slip into a state of relaxation. That alone is worth the price of admission. But there's more!

People come to massage for a variety of reasons. Many come primarily for relaxation and wellness. Experts estimate that at least 80% of doctor office visits are for health problems that are caused or aggravated by stress. Headaches, backaches, and many other of life's most common complaints are aggravated by stress. Anything we can do to counteract and alleviate the effect of stress is going to have a beneficial effect on our health. In The End of Stress As We Know It, author Bruce McEwen describes the effects that chronic exposure to stress hormones have on the body. Among other things, continued elevated levels of these hormones lead to higher cholesterol, a higher incidence of Type II diabetes, and increased accumulation of belly fat.